I’m writing this because…well, I’m not exactly sure why. I guess I’m writing this to you because I have a lot of conflicted feelings right now. I have a lot I wish we could talk about, except you’re away and we won’t be in the same place again for over a week. So that leaves writing as just about my only option, doesn’t it?
Well, writing or sitting here with a dozen half-baked, anxious thoughts swimming around my head heading for a typical negative spiral. All things considered, I think I’ve chosen the better option.
When I say half-baked thoughts, I’m not kidding. I’ve already gotten at least 10 different unfinished thoughts written out below that I have to somehow figure out how to link together. This is why I think it can be so hard to quiet my thoughts sometimes, because they’re just floating around unattended to, trying to make sense of themselves, trying to connect to one another but always coming up short.
Does that make sense? Nevermind, I’m off-topic already.
In truth, I think I felt compelled to write this because I’m still processing what happened in session Thursday. It’s brought up a lot of different thoughts and feelings for me and I want to tell you about them.
First, I am not going to apologize again for the disaster our session was, even though I really want to. I’m not going to apologize because you said I have nothing to apologize for. Instead I’m going to say thank you. Thank you for bearing witness to my deepest pain and thank you for trying to understand the chaotic mess of my thoughts even though I was not making very much sense.
I am a little bit embarrassed by my behavior, and have had to sit with that, although it has not been as difficult I think it might have been in the past. I am trying, diligently, not to punish myself for having feelings. Feelings are okay, even negative ones. They are a part of being human. You’ve told me that. I believe you.
I’m also a little bit nervous about what it means for the next time we see each other. I wonder, will we talk about what happened? Should we? Should we just move on from it? Is there a right answer to any of these questions? I try to tell myself things will be okay because you said they were and you said to trust you. I do trust you, as much as I can.
I think I’m holding onto some things that are making the trust part difficult for me, or at the very least are making me want to push you away when we’re together. That’s why I said during our last session something about our relationship being ‘different’ recently. It’s different because part of me is holding back, part of me won’t let myself connect and trust you completely.
I had this problem months ago and we talked then about why it might be happening. Things improved. As the resistance to fully trust has come up again, I chose to stay quieter and try to ignore it. It’s not working anymore. I am not always initially very transparent about what I’m thinking. I know that. You know that too, I’m sure. I’m going to take the first step now in breaking myself of that habit by being as honest as I can about why that I believe is and how I want to try to overcome it.
On my end, I think my lack of trust and transparency about it comes at least partly from a place of needing reassurance that you care about me. My core belief is that if you ask, on your own, for me to tell you about whatever it is I’m holding back, it means to me that you truly want to hear what I have to say. It means you care about me as a person, not just a client, and are invested in my therapy too. It helps me connect with you a little easier, makes things feel less clinical. However, I have to speak up on my own and share something without any prompting or encouragement, then I am unable to fully trust that it was safe to do so. I can’t trust that you aren’t sitting there thinking Why do I choose to keep working with her? She’s crazy! Just listen to the things she is telling me!
These are cognitive distortions. I’m aware of that. And yet, they persist.
I know that you are not going to tell me straight up that you care about me, even though I really wish you would. Truthfully, I have a sense that you care, from the way you treat me and the things you say. From the fact that you have done things like let me see you for free when I couldn’t afford to pay and talk me through a panic attack over the phone and send me such a kind message after I wrote you that letter at Christmas. Things you didn’t have to do. Things that felt very special to me.
However, I also know that some of the beliefs I carry with me, no doubt part of my BPD, can overpower my ability to recognize that you care. The most central belief is this: People only care about me if they can read my mind and intuit my every need without my having to explicitly ask for it. The part of me holding onto that thought is the same part of me that will vilify you for not being attuned to my every need, not honing in on a specific topic that I’ve previously alluded to as critical, or not knowing when to when to push me and when to back off. That’s the part of me that thinks you only see me as a paycheck; a neurotic, needy paycheck.
Although it wasn’t completely a conscious effort, I know I have been unfair in expecting you to navigate all of my subtle needs without error. I know that it is inaccurate to assume that failure to read me perfectly means failure to care. I know that I am projecting on you the same beliefs I have in every other relationship I’ve ever had.
Which is how I know this is so important.
We have had conversations before where I expressed a desire for you to push me to talk about certain topics, and then when said topic comes up a week or a month later and you don’t, I am disappointed. She didn’t remember. See? She doesn’t care, I end up thinking to myself and then decide to withdraw a little bit.
In reflecting on this, I think that maybe it’s my job to be more direct with you in the moment. I think there could be benefit in being able to tell you clearly what I’m thinking and what I need instead of alluding to that need and desperately hoping you notice. To be able to articulate if something you are saying does not feel useful or like something I can hear at that moment. To be able to articulate what might be more helpful. To be able to tell you if I need you to push me to keep talking versus if I need for you to pause and give me some time to reflect.
I think that I really would like to work on practicing asking for what I need from you. I’m hoping that successfully advocating for myself and then having my needs respected or validated will teach me to take care of my own needs and also fulfill my desperate need to feel like you care too. I’m hoping I can generalize this outside your office, to other areas in my life.
Asking for what I need can be scary. The last time I tried to do that here, with the self-harm conversation, I felt like things imploded between us very quickly. I could sense that you were confused or angry or hurt or something in the camp of a negative emotion. And so now I’m afraid to ask for things. I’m afraid I’m not going to express myself clearly or that I will say something in an accusatory, demeaning manner. Worst case, I fear it turns into another conflict between us. I really really do not want that.
I’m literally so afraid that what I just said is another example of me framing something in a poor way and will result in us devolving into a disagreement because of it.
Yet I’m still writing. Trusting you.
I need you to remember that recognizing what I need in the moment and asking for it both clearly and directly is a huge struggle for me. The words do not at all come naturally to me. Even when they do, speaking induces so much anxiety that I am often paralyzed by it andcan no longer find my words. They get twisted, jumbled.
Even though you say we can survive conflict, I fear I’m going to mess up our entire relationship if I say something wrong. I worry about this in my other relationships too, except with greater fear because I don’t have the safety net I have with you.
I’m asking you to help me with this, all of it. If anything is going to be a theme in our work together, this should be it.
Even as I write, my mind is fighting me and telling me to just scrap this letter now because nothing good will come from it. I’m scared to talk about this. Lately, I wonder constantly if it is smart idea to bring up different thoughts that are on my mind because when we had that last conflict (maybe you wouldn’t characterize that as a conflict? I don’t know what else to call it), you said that thing that won’t leave my head:“Well, do you have to tell me about everything?”
Bringing that up again feels like I’m criticizing you. That’s not my intention. I’m choosing to talk about it because that comment really stuck with me, in the worst way. It has made me censor myself more than ever. Since then, I’ve mentioned the comment once or twice, hoping you’d get the hint that we need to talk about it. We haven’t, so I’m going to say directly that I need us to talk about it.
I need us to talk about it so I can understand your intention behind saying it and maybe it can stop replaying in my head every time I want to bring something to you. I need to know that it wasn’t you telling me that you don’t want to hear what I have to say or that you want me to keep things concealed. Even with all the evidence I have to refute that belief, I’m still having trouble reconciling it on my own.
In a similar vein, I need you to tell me that you are not leaving me. I know I’ve asked for this before. I’m probably going to keep asking, because when my internal reassurance wears thin all I’m left with is blinding fear of abandonment. People have always left, not able to take who I am, and it’s terrifying to think you will be one of them.
I had a lot of extremely intense feelings during our last session and many of them did not feel safe for me. I actually think that I shut down and disassociated for a large chunk of that time, because I heard and remember very little of what you were saying to me and did not feel very present in the room. It was new experience for me. It was confusing.
It was just another thing that made me wonder if my challenges require too much, maybe more than you can provide me.
I worry, sometimes, that we’ve gone as far as we can together. I worry that I will go too far, share too much, or lose my shit like I did in our last session and you will decide you do not feel you are equipped to meet my needs. That I am beyond your help. I worry that the extremeness of my being is too much for you. I worry I will burn you out or make you hate me because I can be so difficult.
So I need to hear from you again that you’re still here. I need you to be willing to say that you are in it for the long haul, when I ask you to, it as many times as it takes.
Unless you’re not. Then I guess we need to have a conversation about that.
Similarly, I wonder if you might be willing to be more transparent with me too, about where you think we are on this journey? Are there times you have felt challenged by our relationship? Do you have goals for me? Do you ever think that my needs are beyond what you have the capacity to handle?
The last time you shared your perspective with me, it was very helpful. I think that there could be benefit in hearing how your perspective has changed, or not, since then.
I know I have said a lot and asked for a lot. It took me almost three hours to get it all down, so I can imagine it’s a lot to process. But I hope that we can break it down and address what’s important. I hope maybe this letter can be a window into my thought process and could guide where we can go next in our work. Maybe it’ll help us both avoid having another session like the last one.
At the very least, I’ve taken the risk of being super honest with you and I can give myself credit for that, knowing we will work through whatever comes our way next.